I recently went to Birmingham Pride in England. I’d not been to the Midlands city in 20 years, and had never attended the Pride festival there.
I was struck, as I usually am at these festivals, by the diversity of the crowd; men, women, young and old.
Trade union members marched beneath their banners, parents walked with kids, leather men sported dog masks, Muslim women in hijabs carried rainbow placards and LGBTI African refugees smiled and waved at the crowd… the list goes on and on. You can check out some of my photos here.
It was a great parade in one of the UK’s most ethnically diverse cities.
Coming from the UK capital, I wasn’t wholly surprised. Pride London also shows great diversity. It now boasts a family area and a post-parade area for seniors. The parade features sports groups, military personnel, faith communities, representatives of different nationalities, corporate sponsors and workers from all sectors.
There’s also gym queens, dykes on bikes, DJs, drag performers, parents of queer kids and non-binary activists, among many, many others.
In fact, looking around, you can’t help but sometimes wonder what on earth all these people have in common.
Pride marches show variations from city to city, but as someone who’s been on marches from Toronto to Brussels, Paris to Reykjavik, I can also say that they don’t fundamentally differ.
Despite this, many of you reading this have dismissed the idea of going to Pride.
‘Bunch of nude men, drugged out or severely intoxicated’
We ran a poll on GSN yesterday, asking people how many Pride festivals they expected to attend this year. At the time of writing, 53% of you said ‘none’.
In a Facebook posting, you elaborated on your reasons.
Not everyone lives in a country that has Pride parades, and some of you live far from your nearest one. Some people don’t like crowds.
Others don’t like what they feel is the commercialization of Pride – despite the fact such parades can often cost huge amounts of money to organize.
But others declined because of objections over who attends.
‘I’ve been to pride in San Francisco, LA, New York and Miami. Same thing, bunch of nude men or close to it, drugged out or severely intoxicated,’ said one commentator. ‘I don’t see much pride in public indecency.’
‘Too much drinking, bad food and people trying to be the center of attention. It’s just a big cruise fest,’ said another.
‘Full of narcissistic twats,’ quipped another who was planning on attending no festivals or parades.
This doesn’t chime with my experiences. Yes, there will always be some muscle boys and others wanting to show of their physique, but here in London, they’re often in the minority.
‘The beefed-up, drug-loving crowd tend to skip the parade’
In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the beefed-up, drug-loving crowd tend to skip the parade and save their energy for the evening clubs and parties.
Another commentator took the opposite view. Rather than his Pride being all about muscle boys, it was now too encompassing of a diverse range of queer groups.
‘The gay part of gay pride has been marginalized and pushed aside,’ he believed.
What these commentators have in common is that they don’t see enough other people like them at Pride. They see lots of folk who they feel don’t represent them. For this reason, they don’t feel it’s for them.
‘Pride will only reflect you if you are part of it’
The LGBTI community is diverse, and any Pride parade has to reflect that diversity. If you don’t think it reflects you, the best way to remedy that is to ensure you are there.
Whether you’re walking in the parade, or watching from the sidewalk, Pride will only reflect you if you are part of it.
No, you won’t be surrounded by thousands of people exactly like you because the LGBTI family is an incredibly diverse one. But nobody represents you better than you do.
Pride is what you make of it, and it’s not something you should feel obliged to attend. But if you stay away because you don’t see enough people like yourself there, you’re only contributing to the problem, right?